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A timeline of Dolly Parton's philanthropy

Even though she's known around the globe for her stunning songwriting and sparkling personality, Dolly Parton is most well-known in her home state for being an incredibly generous philanthropist. She's long been a champion for causes that range from childhood literacy to environmental conservation, and this year, she donated $1 million to fund research to develop a cure for COVID-19. 

Flip through the galley below for a deeper look at the "Jolene" singer and songwriter's extensive charitable history throughout the years. 

 
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Throughout the Years: Financial support for a variety of charities

Throughout the Years: Financial support for a variety of charities
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In addition to her own foundation, Parton has contributed funds to a number of charitable organizations outside the Dollywood umbrella, including the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, Save the Music Foundation and the Boot Campaign, an organization that donates proceeds to military veterans who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and physical injuries. 

 
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1988: Parton establishes the Dollywood Foundation

1988: Parton establishes the Dollywood Foundation
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In 1988, Parton established the Dollywood Foundation, named for her theme park in Sevier County, Tennessee. The foundation’s original goal was to help children in the region “achieve educational success,” but it morphed into the Imagination Library in 1995, a program that distributes books to children across the globe, free of charge, from birth until they begin their first year of school. 

 
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Late 1980s: The Buddy Program

Late 1980s: The Buddy Program
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Soon after launching the Dollywood Foundation, Parton turned her focus to reducing the high school dropout rate in Sevier County, Tennessee. According to the organization, Parton asked every seventh- and eighth-grade student to “buddy up” with another student, promising them $500 in cash after they both successfully graduated from high school. The program was a major success for students in that year — according to the organization, the high school’s dropout rate declined from 35 percent to just 6 percent in response to Parton’s gift. 

 
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1989: Parton gives $500 scholarships to every high school student in Sevier County

1989: Parton gives $500 scholarships to every high school student in Sevier County
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One year after the debut of the Dollywood Foundation, Parton offered a $500 scholarship to every student in Sevier County, Tennessee, who wished to attend the nearby Hiwassee College, in an effort to boost graduation rates in the region and improve college attendance. 

 
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1991: Eagle Mountain Sanctuary opens at Dollywood

1991: Eagle Mountain Sanctuary opens at Dollywood
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In addition to the rides, shows and other attractions at Dollywood, one of its most iconic exhibits is the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary. Managed by the American Eagle Foundation, the 30,000-square-foot aviary houses what the organization describes as the country’s largest collection of “non-releasable” bald eagles. The eagles are on view at Dollywood several months out of the year and participate in the Wings of America Birds of Prey show for visitors to enjoy. 

 
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1995: The Imagination Library begins mailing books to young children

1995: The Imagination Library begins mailing books to young children
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In 1995, Parton made the Imagination Library, her non-profit organization that sends one book per month to each enrolled child from birth until their first year of school, the major focus of the Dollywood Foundation. The Imagination Library was founded in tribute to Parton’s father, who was unable to read. 

 
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2000: Parton establishes the Dolly Parton Scholarship

2000: Parton establishes the Dolly Parton Scholarship
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Every year, five high school seniors in Sevier County, Tennessee, are awarded the Dolly Parton Scholarship, which provides $15,000 for each recipient to pursue a college education. The scholarship is, according to the Dollywood Foundation, given to students who “have a dream they wish to pursue and who can successfully communicate their plan and commitment to realize their dreams.” 

 
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2002: The Dollywood Foundation introduces the Chasing Rainbows Award

2002: The Dollywood Foundation introduces the Chasing Rainbows Award
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In conjunction with the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, the Dollywood Foundation presents the Chasing Rainbows Award to a “teacher who has overcome obstacles in his/her life and is making a difference in the lives of children.” As a prize, the winner gets to spend a week at Dollywood in Tennessee as Parton’s honored guest. 

 
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2006: The Imagination Library goes international

2006: The Imagination Library goes international
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Originally intended to just serve the children of Sevier County, Tennessee, the Imagination Library has since broadened its reach outside of the United States. In 2006, the Library began shipping books to children in Canada and, in the following year, the United Kingdom. The program expanded to Australia in 2013. 

 
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2007: Parton raises $500,000 for a new Sevier County hospital

2007: Parton raises $500,000 for a new Sevier County hospital
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At a benefit concert in May 2007, Parton raised money for the LeConte Medical Center, a new hospital and cancer center in Sevier County, Tennessee. In addition to the $500,000 raised at the concert, both Dollywood and Parton’s Dixie Stampede dinner theater each pledged $250,000 to the project, bringing the total amount of funds raised to $1 million. The hospital opened in 2010 and named its women’s health ward after Parton. 

 
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2016: Parton establishes the My People Fund

2016: Parton establishes the My People Fund
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Through her Dollywood Foundation, Parton pledged that she would donate $1,000 per month for six months to families who lost their homes in the aftermath of wildfires that ripped through the Great Smoky Mountains in 2016. In addition to donating her own money to the My People Fund, Parton also hosted two star-studded telethons to raise funds for fire victims, ultimately raising and donating millions of dollars. 

 
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2016: Sevier County Fire Scholarships

2016: Sevier County Fire Scholarships
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Along with the much-needed cash grants provided to families impacted by the Great Smoky Mountains wildfires, the Dollywood Foundation also provided college scholarships to graduating high school seniors in the region who had lost their homes in the fires. 

 
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2016: Parton awards a $30,000 Special Merit Scholarship

2016: Parton awards a $30,000 Special Merit Scholarship
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In 2016, Parton made headlines by awarding a $30,000 Special Merit Scholarship to a 2-year-old girl named Evey Johns in recognition of the Imagination Library’s milestone of shipping out one million books per month. Johns, who had enrolled in the Imagination Library, was announced as the recipient of the scholarship at a stop on Parton’s Pure & Simple Tour. 

 
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2016: Parton comes out in support of transgender rights

2016: Parton comes out in support of transgender rights
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As the country debated over the “bathroom ban” enacted in North Carolina, Parton — who has been a vocal advocate for LGBT rights — came out in opposition to the ban. “I think everybody should be treated with respect,” Parton told CNN in 2016. “I don’t judge people, and I try not to get too caught up in the controversy of things. I hope that everybody gets a chance to be who and what they are.”

 
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2017: Parton donates $1 million to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt

2017: Parton donates $1 million to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt
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To celebrate the release of her children’s album, "I Believe In You," Parton made a $1 million donation to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Parton’s gift was made in honor of her beloved niece, who was treated for leukemia at the hospital.

 
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2018: Imagination Library gives its 100 millionth book

2018: Imagination Library gives its 100 millionth book
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Twenty-three years after it was founded, the Imagination Library mailed its 100 millionth book to a child in March 2018. At present, the program ships more than a million books each month to 1.3 million participants across the globe. 

 
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2018: Parton unveils the Hannah Dennison Butterfly Garden at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital

2018: Parton unveils the Hannah Dennison Butterfly Garden at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital
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Shortly after donating $1 million to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Parton helped open the Hannah Dennison Butterfly Garden at the hospital, dedicated to her niece. Dennison was treated for leukemia at the hospital beginning in 1990 and ultimately made a full recovery. 

 
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2020: Parton funds COVID-19 vaccine research

2020: Parton funds COVID-19 vaccine research
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As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the United States, Dolly Parton donated $1 million to help fund vaccine research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. 

Amy McCarthy is a Texas-based journalist. Follow her on twitter at @aemccarthy

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